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The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019 received Royal Assent in October 2019.

The Act creates the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body, which will have responsibility for the restoration of the Palace of Westminster. The Sponsor Body, which had operated in shadow form from July 2018, was established substantively on 8 April 2020, six months after Royal Assent.

The Sponsor Body will propose an Outline Business Case (OBC) for Restoration and Renewal, to be voted on and agreed by both Houses of Parliament, before the building works can begin.

Under the Act, the Sponsor Body is required to form a company limited by guarantee to formulate proposals relating to Palace restoration works and to carry out the Parliamentary building works in line with the requirements of the Sponsor Body. It will “procure and manage the contractors and supply chain”.

The Board of the Sponsor Body agreed to incorporate the Delivery Authority at its inaugural meeting on 8 April 2020.

On 24 April 2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) published Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme, a review of the Restoration and Renewal Programme. The review was based on work carried out between January and March 2020 (whilst the Sponsor Body was still in shadow form).

The NAO expected “an outline business case planned to be ready in autumn 2021, and approval from Parliament expected to follow in 2022” but it noted that “Future dates may change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing at the time of this report”.

On 19 May 2020, the Sponsor Body announced that it would “review options for how the restoration programme should be carried out, including new ways of working developed in response to the health crisis caused by Covid-19”.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market, the Sponsor Body spokesperson in the House of Lords, expected that the Strategic Review would be “discussed by Members early in the new year”, after consideration by the Commissions of the two Houses and “the appropriate committees”.

The Commissions of the two Houses considered the Strategic Review draft report at their December 2020 meetings. The final report was presented to the House of Lords Commission on 22 January 2021 but has not yet been published (see the Commission’s minutes).

On 25 June 2020, in response to an oral question on when the Sponsor Body planned to commence the decant, in advance of the restoration and renewal works, Damian Hinds, the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body spokesperson, told the House that the decant is still expected to begin in the mid-2020s.

Following the publication of the NAO Report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) held an oral evidence session, on 21 July 2020, with Sarah Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Sponsor Body, David Goldstone, Chief Executive Officer, Delivery Authority and officials from both Houses of Parliament. Its subsequent report, Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster, was published on 2 October 2020.

PAC was concerned that progress on R&R had been “unacceptably slow and cannot afford any further delays”. It recommended that the Sponsor Body should, within two months, provide the Committee with “an overview of the key milestones which need to be completed before building work can commence on restoring the Palace”.

The Sponsor Body’s initial response to the PAC report, a letter from Sarah Johnson, the CEO of the Sponsor Body, was received later in October. Sarah Johnson provided a list of milestones. She also confirmed that the Strategic Review would explain the issues it had considered and that it would “draw a line under various options so there is a clear way ahead”.  

January 2021 letter provided a summary of the survey works planned on the Palace’s condition. It also noted that the House Services believed that there was no need for any Northern Estate Programme prjoects to be designated part of the R&R Programme.

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